Tuesday, November 30, 2004

This is the Big Easy, baby. We do things a little differently down here.

Today is my last day at work. As of 6:00 p.m. tonight, I will be unemployed. I am happy about this. Also scared. So I'm going to change the format of the blog to reflect this change in my life. I'll still tell you about movies I watch and absurdities I witness, but the focus of the blog will primarily be a journal of my unemployment and my thoughts about working for a living. I will also be soliciting bad and absurd work stories from you instead of having a Robot of the Week contest. Tally ho.

I guess I need to pick a robot winner

Let's put this Robot of the Week contest to bed. It's been two weeks plus since I put up the robot. So, the winner is Kristy for her name Trumpetino, the Tiny Tooter. Congratulations, Kristy. Hopefully, Blogspot hasn't posted a link to any advertisement this time. Cocksuckers.

I'm going to kick this blog's ass

Weird. I just noticed that certain words in old posts (e.g. "guitars," "no plans," "t-shirts") have been turned into links directing you to sales of guitars and t-shirts and, weirdly, a search for the phrase "no plans." I attempted to erase these links and repost the posts, but it didn't work. Is this some insidious, underhanded attempt by Blogspot to insert advertisements in my blog against my wishes and without notice, or am I being hacked? Anyway, if you click on a link and it leads you to an advertisement, I apologize. It's not my fault and it's not what I want. And fuck you, Blogspot.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

I'm back, M.F.'s

I'm back in town after a week in the wilds of western Nebraska, my homeland, for Thanksgiving. I'll spare you the details except to mention that my five-year-old cousin Dylan came home from school a few weeks ago, walked into the house, and calmly announced to his parents, "George Bush has lied to the American people." Excellent. He also unwittingly coined a fantastic new phrase, to be uttered when you are stunned by someone's unexpected behavior (in this case, my aunt squirting canned whipped cream into people's mouths after sprucing up the pumpkin pie): "Man, I can't even talk to that!"
I saw a wonderful movie tonight, and if you live in the Austin area, you have one more chance to see it at the Alamo Drafthouse downtown on Tuesday night. It's called Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen), and it's a three-hour essay film about the city Andersen grew up in and how it has been portrayed on film. For those of you who are turned off by the phrase "three-hour essay film," let me mention that it flies by, is accessible, engaging, and funny, is filled with clips from nearly 200 movies set in Los Angeles, and, if you've spent any time thinking about film, architecture, Los Angeles, Hollywood, memory and nostalgia, a city's gradually changing landscape, and the disparity of wealth between classes in the United States and the effect of your class status on the way you observe art, this movie can change the way you think and the way you watch movies. I'm serious. This is a phenomenal achievement, and one of the greatest pieces of film criticism this country has produced. If you're interested in any of this stuff, see this movie. See it, see it, see it. Tuesday night. I'm not being paid. It's just really fucking good. Alamo Drafthouse downtown. Come on. See it. 9:30 p.m. I know that's kind of late for a three-hour movie, but take your diaper off and go see it. It's not on video or DVD, and so far there are no plans for a DVD release. What the hell happens on a Tuesday anyway? Nothing.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Gone for a few days

Hey everybody. There will probably be no new posts until a week from Monday because I'm going home for Thanksgiving. I might be able to get to a computer this week, but most likely not. Here are the movies I watched over the weekend:
Wedding in Galilee (Michel Khleifi) This was the first, and maybe only, Israeli-filmed movie with a Palestinian perspective.
Lost & Found Video Night Vol. 4: All Music Edition (Various) Awesome.
Woman in the Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara) Creepy, beautiful, excellent.
The Color of Money (Martin Scorsese) Great entertainment, but not really up there with Scorsese's best stuff. Lots of interesting supporting players. There is something weirdly unsettling about young Tom Cruise.

Currently reading: The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre, and Other Aspects of Popular Culture by Robert Warshow

Friday, November 19, 2004

Adventures after hours

Last night was pretty good for a Thursday. After work, I went to a happy hour and had some drinks with work friends. When I got home, my friend Aaron left a message saying to call him back no matter the lateness of the hour because he needed to know if the singers involved in "We Are the World" wore sweaters or t-shirts. My gut instinct told me sweaters, but I had to call him back after checking it out on the Internet. (Answer: sweaters and t-shirts. Everybody won.) Then I felt like having another beer even though I had three giant ones at the happy hour, so I walked to the creepy convenience store two blocks from my apartment. The convenience store is creepy because there is a thin film of dust over everything except the beer, transients like to hang out in the alley next to it, the owner relentlessly hits on my wife when she goes there so she doesn't go there anymore, and I'm pretty sure I caught the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad when I was there once because a drunken, bearded man wearing camouflage was arguing with the owner about why they didn't get their "shit" from another party and how he was pissed off and willing to do something about it. Anyway, I was glad I went last night because I was privy to this wonderful scene:
(Young blonde kid, maybe 19 years old at the absolute most, walks into the convenience store with a big grin on his face.)
Kid: Do you have a beer garden here?
Owner: A beer garden?
Kid: Yeah, a fuckin' garden with beer in it.
Owner: We have beer in the cooler back there, but I don't know what you're talking about with a beer garden.
Kid: Cool.
(Kid walks to the cooler where I am already standing, trying to decide what beer to buy. Kid is looking at the cooler full of 4os. Kid grins even wider and nods head rhythmically. He looks at me and smiles and nods his head even more.)
Kid, in Spicoli tone: Yeahhhhh. Alright. Ha ha. Yeahhhhh. Yeahhhh. Alright.
(Kid grabs two 40s and walks to counter. I grab six pack and stand behind him in line. Kid is still smiling, saying "Yeahhh" and "alright" and nodding vigorously. Kid looks out front door of convenience store, nods, smiles, and waves. I look out door and see an even younger kid, maybe 17, sitting in a Bronco. Younger kid smiles, nods, and waves back. Kid stretches arms out in guitar shape, a 40 in one hand and a 40 in the other, and plays air guitar on his beers.)
Owner: You have some ID?
Kid, in exuberantly exaggerated game show host style: Yes, I certainly do!
(Kid plunks ID down on counter, buys beer, and leaves.)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Wads vs. Warts

Last Saturday, the old lady and I felt slightly shitty, on the verge of fevers and/or colds, and it was rainy outside, so we ordered Chinese food for lunch instead of going out to eat or whipping something up. "Weird Science" was on TV, and we watched it while we ate. It was edited for television, so all the profanity was cleaned up (e.g. "tits" became "bosoms," "shit" became "shoot," etc.). So far, so predictable. Then came the most baffling network censorship decision I've seen in some time. Bill Paxton, playing Chet, says "You're stewed, butt wad," in the original version. For some unexplainable reason, this line was changed to "You're stewed, butt wart." Why? Can someone explain this to me? If you are the kind of person who gets offended by the phrase "butt wad," wouldn't "butt wart" also cause you much consternation and chagrin? Would anyone watching "Weird Science" on Saturday afternoon be offended by either term? Is "wad" on the network blacklist? What the fuck? What the fuck indeed?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I was unaware of this fetish and still do not know exactly how it is performed

My friend Matt received a porno spam e-mail with this subject heading yesterday:
"Sluts suck cock through slice of pizza"

Splat! Bort! Zert!

Hey, everybody. Go over to my friend Joolie's blog and check out the dick puncher button. You'll be glad you did.
I saw Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks) last night at the Alamo Drafthouse. It was pretty great, which didn't really surprise me since every Howard Hawks film I've seen has been great. It was part of the Austin Film Society's Jean Arthur retrospective, but it wasn't one of Arthur's best roles. She seems a little too polite and subdued to be a Hawks woman. She has a couple of really funny scenes, but the reason to see the movie is Cary Grant and his interactions with Thomas Mitchell and Richard Barthelmess.
You know, I always mention what movies I've been watching, but I never mention what books I read or music I listen to. This is probably because music is such an ongoing constant around the apartment that it would be too hard to effectively document and name-dropping a bunch of authors could make me look like a pretentious twat. But, this blog is also a way for me to keep a record of what I've been doing, something I can go back to and check out what I was listening to/watching/reading at a particular time. So I should mention that other stuff too.
Currently reading: Searches & Seizures by Stanley Elkin
Last big music splurge: Doug Gillard-Salamander, John Frusciante-Inside of Emptiness, Isis-Panopticon, Flat Earth Society-Isms, Ted Leo + Pharmacists-Shake the Sheets, Neko Case-The Tigers Have Spoken, and The Residents-Commercial Album.

Monday, November 15, 2004

A new friend

I would like to direct everyone to the blog of my new friend, Bobo Teebo. He moved to Austin from the remote Teebo islands last month and is very anxious to make new friends. Say hello to Bobo at www.bobolovesyou.blogspot.com and feel the positivity. He's a very positive fellow, and a true gentleman.

Iron Man

I forgot to mention I was summoned for jury duty. Pretty exciting, eh? Since I work for the Texas Legislature, I am exempt from jury duty, but I will be free and easy (unemployed) when they call me in, so I couldn't get out of it. I am confused/excited/irritated/curious/angry about this so-called "jury duty." I searched Google for my judge to find out what kind of juryin' I am expected to supply and was dismayed/relieved to find out he presides over civil, not criminal, court. I was also momentarily excited to find out my judge was involved in this bizarre incident, before realizing it was probably someone else with the same name.

Am I Going Insane (Radio)

Nothing much to say, just wanted to use another Black Sabbath song as a post title. Here are a few more of my favorite Black Sabbath song titles:
Children of the Grave
National Acrobat
Spiral Architect
Electric Funeral
Fairies Wear Boots


Oh yeah, R.I.P. Ol' Dirty Bastard.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Here are the movies I watched this week, lightning round-style:
On the big screen:
Undertow (David Gordon Green) He's 29 years old and he's already made three distinctly original, flawed but wonderful movies. I would be resentful and jealous if I didn't like what he was doing so much.
On video:
Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen) I've seen this a few times, but my wife (that's still weird to say) hadn't seen it yet. I have mixed feelings about the artistic worth of the Coen brothers, but I do love some of their movies and am always entertained. I like this one a lot.
King Lear (Jean-Luc Godard) Confusing as hell, frustrating, sometimes illuminating. As far as I know, this is Godard's only entirely English-speaking film, and the cast is really bizarre: theater director Peter Sellars, film director Leos Carax, Godard himself, Norman Mailer, Molly Ringwald, Burgess Meredith, and Woody Allen.
35 Up (Michael Apted) A film crew interviewed a group of British schoolchildren from different class backgrounds when they were 7, and director Apted has been back every seven years to see what's happened to them. All the films are compelling, but I found this one less interesting than either "28 Up" or "42 Up." Most of the subjects at the age of 35 were settled into a routine, most had small children, and had found a career they wanted to stick with, so it wasn't exactly cinematic dynamite. Still, to be able to see footage of people at ages 7, 14, 21, 28, and 35 is a rare opportunity that made me think about what I'm doing with my own life.
Summer (Eric Rohmer) This seems fluffy and inconsequential, and the heroine seems whiny and melodramatic, but it slowly turns into yet another excellent film from a guy who's made 70 billion of them, mostly with similar themes. How does he do it? Rohmer is in his nineties now and still making good films, the majority about young, attractive women and their ethical and emotional problems. And most of them are distinctly different from each other, funny, and visually exciting.

War Pigs (aka robot of the week)

This week's robot of the week winner is Nick for F. Scott McGizmo Nuts. Congratulations, Nick. Here is the new Robot of the Week. This is the second-to-last chance to name a robot. At the conclusion of the next monthly contest, I am retiring the Robot of the Week contest. The novelty has run its course.

Black Sabbath Monday

Hey, everybody. I work for the Texas Legislature. They are in session every other year. When the legislature meets, we have more work than our small staff can handle so a shitload of temporary workers are hired. Most of them have started now. My little office, which is just the right size for little ol' me, is now home to four people. They're all nice, but it super-sucks. I like my alone time to read, surf the Web, stare at the wall, etc. It's not really possible with four people in a room, so I have limited blogging time today. That's why I'm declaring it Black Sabbath Monday. Today, my posts will all have Black Sabbath songs for titles. Also, my posts will be very short.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Obligatory post

I don't have much to say, but it's been a few days, so I should probably post something. I've been feeling sluggish and surly for a few weeks, not much enthusiasm, anti-social. I still hate my job even though I put in my notice and will no longer be working there as of December 1. You'd think this would make it easier to come to work knowing the end was in sight, but I still have to give myself a pep talk every morning to get out of bed. Also, I hate the president. And the vice president. And his cabinet. And Congress. And all the titty-baby Democrats who have no guts. I'm tired of what I eat for lunch. I'm trying to keep the misanthropy at bay, but it's taken hold for now. It will eventually leave and I'll like people again, but it's really going to take a while this time. I had yesterday off, that was something. And I watched a couple of movies I liked a lot, Forbidden Zone (Richard Elfman) and The Son (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne). Both movies made me feel good, momentarily: "Forbidden Zone" for its enthusiasm toward old Tex Avery-style cartoons and musicals and its offbeat sense of humor, and "The Son" for its minimalism, an emphasis on forgiveness instead of revenge, and its ability to be hopeful without any sentimentality or manipulation. It's funny how much I like humanist art but how little I like actual humans, including myself. Nah, that's not entirely true. People, you're alright. Except for the fundamentalist Christians. You can eat shit. Sorry for the incoherent post, everybody. Goodnight, and God bless.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The Man Who Refused to Take His Gorilla Mask Off, Part 10

(This segment to be read aloud in the tone perfected by friendly elderly narrators of made-for-TV Christmas specials, especially those involving claymation reindeer)

It has been a whirlwind month for our hero, dear readers, a whirlwind month indeed. Steve Smithers, a former office worker, an Average Joe if you will, has transformed himself into an ape in shining armor, a rescuer of children, two little children not unlike yourselves. His days are filled with praise and glory, with adulation, with parades and ceremonies and commercial endorsements and carnivals and complimentary meals. The citizens of Fancytown have embraced Apeman Steve. They've adopted him as their mascot. Mayor Brannigan even gave him the key to the city, an honor bestowed on only a fraction of those who live in our glorious metropolis. Yes, children, Apeman Steve's life has taken quite an interesting turn. Just a quick peek at what he has been up to in the last four weeks is enough to make your kindly old narrator's head spin. Let's gaze into our crystal ball at just a few of his recent activities, children. Look, everyone. There he is as the grandmaster of the annual Fancytown parade. Doesn't he look wonderful? Local billionaire Jackson Whittaker Harkington allowed Steve to ride his famous Clydesdale, Old Fuckface, and Steve proved himself a worthy horseman. Look at his poise astride the huge beast, kids. He cuts an almost presidential figure, wouldn't you say? What's this? A podium at the end of the parade route? And Mayor Brannigan again? How fantastic. The mayor is making a very special announcement. He's declaring it Apeman Steve Day in Fancytown. He says there will be a carnival on this date next year. Shifting my gaze on the crystal ball, I see Steve in front of a camera crew, holding an enormous sandwich. And who's that standing next to him, children? Why, it's none other than former NFL great John Elway. Steve is appearing with Mr. Elway in a commercial for Crazy Louie's Really Big Sandwiches. This commercial is going to be broadcast all over Fancytown. Isn't that wonderful, kids? And what do we have here? Steve is appearing onstage at the Fancytown Municipal Auditorium. He's been given the incredible honor of introducing the nationally acclaimed extreme gymnastics and dance troupe Keep It Real Tony & The Just Say Yes To Life Dancers. What an honor. Look at those kids move. They're quite an amazing troupe, aren't they? Now look at Steve walk down the street. Everyone waves to him and calls out his name. He's become quite the local celebrity. Ooh, now we're in Apeman Steve's apartment. It's a nice little place, not too fancy but a comfortable and attractive home nonetheless. Steve's taking his shoes off and relaxing in his favorite chair. Now he gets up from the chair and takes a few items from the cupboard. Here's where we cut the shit, kids. Apeman Steve is drinking vodka from the bottle, straight, through a silly straw. He's also looking at pornography. Deviant pornography. He wants you and all the others in Fancytown to know, children, that you can stick your accolades and attention right up your ass. He's tired of your insincere flattery and self-serving starfuckery. He wants you to know that John Elway was a boring dick, the Clydesdale was poorly behaved, and the dance troupe completely sucked. He's an apeman, kids, and he needs an apewoman. Guess what else, children? Maybe he needs to get out of Fancytown to find her. Maybe Apeman Steve will take his commercial endorsement money and hit the road. Maybe Apeman Steve wants to see what this crazy country really looks like. Maybe he wants to get in adventures, stay in hotels, get in bar fights, and feel the open road. And maybe, just maybe, Apeman Steve will find love. But that's another story for another time. Until then, keep reaching for the stars. Goodnight, children, and get the fuck out of my house.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Am I a bad person because I don't like office potlucks?

I guess I'm the devil, but I fucking hate organized, forced leisure activities and potluck dinners, especially those of the holiday variety. Maybe I'm an antisocial prick, but I just get so grumpy when stuff like this happens. Whoopee, it's not bad enough that I have too many organized family dinners, now I have to figure something out for work, too! I can't really cook Thanksgiving food, I've never been a big fan of Thanksgiving food, I don't like anything that's been planned and/or organized, and I just want to go to work in peace without a lot of forced whoop-de-doo. I also get really anxious when there's more than, say, five people in a room unless they happen to be really good friends or I'm pretty drunk, so the idea of 50 people standing around the conference room, exchanging pleasantries and/or witticisms while holding paper plates full of holiday food fills me with complete and utter dread. Maybe I'm an asshole, but why do extroverts and planner-types get to control the world, and why do I look like a dickhead when I don't want to participate?

Robot of the Week contest winner and new Robot of the Week

The contest winner this week is Cuttyblacksow and his robot name, the McSweeney Dick Kisser 5.0. Congratulations, Cutty! Here is our new Robot of the Week. Give it a name, for the love of Christ. I'm considering retiring the robot of the week contest after the next monthly winner in two weeks. I will probably still post pictures of robots from time to time, but I'm getting tired of the old robot-naming game. Maybe I'll think up a new contest.

Films: The Movie (dinner version)

Hey, kids. I watched some more movies this weekend. I don't feel like writing about them, though, so I'm going to rate each film by assigning it a particular food item. Maybe you can guess whether I liked these films or not based on their corresponding meals.
First up, on the big screen at the Arbor:
Sideways (Alexander Payne) Cheese enchiladas with poblano sauce, rice, tortillas, and whole black beans.
On video:
The Legend of Suram Fortress (Sergei Paradjanov, Dodo Abishidze) Asparagus and broccoli.
Umberto D (Vittorio de Sica) Bobos de camarao a.k.a. shrimp and yucca with rice in a tomato cream sauce.
The Sacrifice (Andrei Tarkovsky) New Orleans-style shrimp po'boy, red beans and rice, and homemade macaroni and cheese.
Mystic River (Clint Eastwood) Supreme pizza, but the last couple of slices taste fucked up.

Jonathan Rosenbaum's review of "Mystic River" gets at some of the problems I had with the film and says it better than I could. His review has even more relevance in our Bush-reelected present than it did when he wrote it last year. Read it, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

The poetry of the streets

I was watching "Blind Date" either late Friday or Saturday night while lying in bed, and I was introduced to a couple of ass-kicking colloquialisms that had hitherto escaped me. The first of the show's two dates went horribly awry, and, during the post-date interview segment, the woman on the date said she would "rather be sucked up by a tornado of farts" than go on a date with the man again. During the second date, the woman asked the man how many women he'd been with, and he answered: "I've been with them all, age eight to eighty, dumb, crippled, and crazy." The U.S.A. may be okay after all.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I'm going to have a stomach ache for the next four years

Things couldn't have gone worse yesterday. It's almost unbearable to think we have four more years of that arrogant, dangerous prick. I hope I'm out of the office when the nuclear holocaust starts. On the plus side, I could be wrong. Boy, will I look stupid four years from now when terrorism has been vanquished from the earth, money drops from the trees, and the Middle East is an exotic resort. Until then, I'll be in my room crying, drinking whiskey, and putting a gun in my mouth.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I just saw something totally whacked out, dudes

I was returning to my office after getting a seafood salad sandwich at a local sandwich shop (sometimes I get an odd craving for the vaguely mysterious "seafood blend" of non-seafood restaurant fame and must acquiesce, i.e. I am filthy) when I saw something disturbing/endearing. A family of three (middle-aged couple, maybe 13-year-oldish son) were waiting for the light to turn green at the crosswalk so they could cross ... and all three were riding Segway scooters! Part of me wanted to vomit and the other part of me was touched by the cute family of nerds riding their nerdmobiles. I was sweetly horrified.

I watch a lot of movies instead of actually going out and doing stuff

Hey, everybody. I watched some more movies over the weekend. I also went to a Halloween party. FYI, cherry-flavored blood capsules are also shit-flavored.
First up, I saw a movie on the big screen, Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette), at the Arbor. This is one of the most unbearably disturbing films I've seen, so unbearable at times that I wanted to run from the theater. It's also a hopeful, positive experience. Just the fact that it was even made is a positive action. Caouette's mother was given electro-shock therapy as a young girl, setting off a chain reaction of madness, abuse, fragmentation of family, drug use, suicide attempts and many other awful things that extended to her son and flowed back up to her parents. Caouette documented a lot of this on video since he was 11 years old and weaves this home movie footage, answering machine messages, old TV and movie clips, pop songs, white noise, recorded conversation, computer graphics, nightmare imagery, and text into an experimental narrative that gets closer than any film I've seen to externalizing a person's internal life.
On video:
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick) I admire Kubrick as an artist, but I'm not a big fan. I like his films, but he is too disinterested in human beings and too concerned with Big Ideas for me to feel much connection to his work. There are two Kubrick movies, however, that I love without much reservation: "The Killing" and "The Shining." I've read a lot about how "The Shining" is really about Kubrick and the tyranny of artistic control, with Jack Nicholson as the Kubrick/tortured artist character, but I don't really believe it. Even if it's true, I'm not that interested. The reason I don't believe it is because very few scenes are filmed from Jack Nicholson's perspective. Most of the action is filmed from the little boy's perspective, or that of the hotel itself. It's basically a simple story of a little boy terrified of his drunken, violent father and the wide open spaces of a strange environment. Now I want to get a sandwich so I'm going to cut this short.
Therese (Alain Cavalier) True story of the French saint and Carmelite nun done in a series of vignettes with a blank, gray background. It's a lot more exciting than that description made it sound.
Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch) Great old romantic comedy about thieves that is full of explicit-by-1932-standards references to sex since the film was pre-Code. The criminals get away with it, too, which is great.
Mauvais Sang (Leos Carax) This is one of those rare films that is heavily stylized and interested in its human characters. It's a vaguely futuristic crime thriller with lots of nods to silent films, classic Hollywood, and French New Wave that takes lots of detours away from its plot. I liked it a lot.

Robot of the Week contest winner and new Robot of the Week

Hey. This week's Robot of the Week contest winner is Archivaria for her name, Assimo. Congratulations, Archivaria. Here is our new Robot of the Week. Give him a name, leave it as a comment under this post, and you could win the glory of a weekly victory and/or the prizes of a monthly victory.